In many ways, the project mirrored Mr. Cuomo’s other efforts to imprint his footprint on the city, including the refurbishment of the Moynihan Train Hall across the street from Penn Station and its reconstruction of the city’s major airports in Queens. .
In this case, development funds would pay for cosmetic improvements to Penn Station, as well as a potential expansion of the station one block south of its current location. New tracks and platforms would add rail capacity along the economically viable corridor connecting New Jersey commuters to New York jobs after a second tunnel it is built under the Hudson River.
The state would exercise its authority to override local zoning and planning laws so developers can build larger buildings on the site than otherwise allowed. When Ms. Hochul succeeded Mr. Cuomo, she continued to support the project from the state by making modest changes to attract critics, such as widening the footpaths and slightly reducing the scale proposed by the project.
The report also highlights a key concern from critics: It would largely benefit a single company, Vornado Realty Trust, one of the largest office developers in the city. Vornado owns four sites in the development zone and part of a fifth, and its CEO, Steven Roth, last year donated the maximum$ 69,700, to Ms. Hochul’s campaign.
Mr. Roth, along with his family members, also gave Mr. Cuomo about $ 400,000 in donations to the campaign before he resigned. State officials and a spokesperson for Vornado said the donations did not affect Vornado’s role in the venture. Mr. Roth has called the redevelopment of the Penn Station area “Promised Land” in Vornado.
In an earnings call this week, Mr. Roth reiterated the company’s commitment to the state project. “Obviously, we support him,” he said.
A spokesperson for Vornado declined to comment on the recording of the report.
Despite the state’s multi-year work on the project and its impending approval, the Independent Budget Office found the plan lacked a robust analysis of the many risks, including the consequences of moving to remote work and whether the new Penn towers Station could have a negative impact on Hudson Yards, the huge development on the far West Side of Manhattan. Hudson Yards opened in 2019 and has a similarly structured tax arrangement to the proposed Penn Station site.